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Blue Ridge Board Recognizes Students

By Ted Brewster

At its meeting on November 5th, The Blue Ridge School Board sped through a 21-point agenda in barely more than half an hour, even including the recognition it bestowed on several outstanding students. Most of the items were routine personnel matters, including long lists of officials for fall and winter sports.

Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Matthew Nebzydoski, started off with a report from Luciano Shea on his experience at the National Youth Leadership Forum at Wake Forest University over the summer. Mr. Shea was not present, but in his report he said the event featured forensics, and his special favorite, robotics.

Elementary School Principal Danelle Decker introduced her special 5th-grader, Matthew Branham, whom she said his teachers praised as always positive and prepared, and a hard worker. Her other choice for October was Taylor Dibble, who could not attend.

In the absence of High School Principal Casey Webster, Mr. Nebz also introduced Ms. Webster's choices for senior recognition for September and October. Three were present to address the Board. Kyra Powell recognized her teachers and fellow students for putting her on the right path. She hopes to study economics. Josh Goff wants to study criminology, with a goal of criminal investigator; Mr. Nebz said that Mr. Goff was one of the first members of the "student security partners" outfit organized by SRO Greg Deck. And Megan Sommer, the student body's representative to the Board, as well as student body president, class president, and president of the National Honor Society, will attend the University of Scranton to study exercise science, ultimately leading to a career in medicine. Daniel Tierney was absent, but Mr. Nebzydoski said that the National Honor Society member hopes to attend the US Naval Academy.

The settlement with the Norfolk Southern railroad reported last week to cost the district $32,000, actually came to only $23,625.48. The railroad claimed real estate transfer taxes were improperly assessed over the past several years by many municipalities and other entities along its route. The settlement amount is said to be 75% of the original claim.

Other items the Board approved in a single motion:

  • A contract with Government Software Services, Inc. to prepare mailers for homestead/farmstead exemption application forms at a rate of 35 cents each.

  • Increased pricing for certified substitute teachers provided by Kelly Educational Staffing, a division Kelly Services, Inc. The district contracts with Kelly to help fill its substitute rolls.

  • Hired Catherine Owens as a Middle School long-term substitute teacher in English.

  • Approved a request from the Music Department for a trip to Orlando, Florida next April. The High School Band and Chorus will perform at 2 locations in Florida. The cost of the trip is estimated at $1,000 per student, most of it covered by fundraisers.

  • Gave administrators permission to purchase from the Keystone Purchasing Network (KPN). KPN relieves the district of the need to solicit bids for many routine products and services.

The Board also approved a couple of items related to the major project that will reconfigure the physical layout of the campus. The primary contractor, Quad 3, will provide "Conceptual Designs for Secure Entrances."

As is more than obvious, the opening phase of the project is already under way. According to Business Manager Brian Dolan, ground was broken that day on the big dig that will relocate the Elementary School playground and remove a large part of the hillside south of the parking lot in favor of a new retaining wall.

The Board gave final approval to a short list of updates covering Board meetings, adoption of textbooks, staff reductions, maintenance, identifying and reporting child abuse, food services and transportation.

A much longer list of policy updates is offered for 30-day review. Many of these updates are textual clarifications recommended by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), often as a result of changes in legislation and regulation. The changes include:

  • Policies covering abolishing positions, drug & alcohol testing, delinquencies in cafeteria payments, and video surveillance are all deleted, many of their provisions incorporated into other sections of the policy manual.

  • The Records Management policy is expanded to include detailed retention schedules.

  • The policy covering public records is expanded to include a section defining "exempted records," another covering "disclosure/production of certain records, and another setting forth a fee schedule for production of public documents.

  • The policy covering emergency preparedness sets out training and reporting guidelines.

  • The policy on relations with law enforcement is entirely replaced, with new definitions and procedures for referral and reporting.

  • Separate policies covering bus drivers are combined into a new policy that covers behaviors expected of such employees.

  • A new policy replaces one that covers the responsibilities of employees using district vehicles.

  • The policy on copyright is expanded with extensive definitions and procedures for handling such materials of all types.

  • The policy related to the use of the internet at Blue Ridge is extensively modified to more explicitly cover offensive material, pornography, and various threatening behaviors.

  • The policy covering contractors is updated with requirements for documentation and procedures.

  • The policy covering "community" is extended with a "Title I Parent Engagement Policy".

The Board's representative to the PSBA, Christine Cosmello, reported on a successful state conference in October. And student representative, Megan Sommer's very articulate report focused on the variety of fund-raising efforts, in particular, the $2,500 already raised for the senior trip; she also reported on her attendance at the state student government association (SGA) conference last month at Cedarcrest High School, in Lebanon, PA.

It wasn't clear whether the tasty meatballs provided by Ms. Cole-Koloski's food service had anything to do with the meeting's brevity. But, Linda's efforts not withstanding, don't expect such a short session at upcoming workshops, some of which will begin looking at a budget. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27, 2018, beginning at 7:00pm in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.

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Children Honor Area Veterans

By Lillian Senko

A group of children, ranging in age from seven to twelve requested time to meet with the Veterans of American Legion Post 86, Susquehanna, PA to pay tribute and thank them for their service.

Commander Brian Delany made arrangements for the children to conduct a special presentation to the veterans, before the scheduled Veteran Day Celebration on November 11th.

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Resounding Thanks In Susquehanna Depot

By Lillian Senko

From the pre-celebration ceremony of children honoring the Veterans of the American Legion Post 86 to the Veterans Celebration at the Memorial in Susquehanna, a resounding Thank You was heard.

Julia Shell opened the ceremony singing the National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, followed by American Legion Post 86 Chaplain Ron Whitehead saying a prayer for blessing for all those who have served and are currently serving our great nation.

Commander Brian Delany commemorated the Veterans of all wars commenting, "they fought with their minds, hearts and bodies." He quoted John F. Kennedy saying, "As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them".

One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918, at eleven o'clock, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month an Armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France.  Commander Delany stated, "WW I Veterans seeking to preserve comradeship fostered in service, to obtain medical care and compensation for the disabled, founded the American Legion in 1919."

Today, Veterans Day is the time to recognize those who have served and are currently serving in our armed services, unlike Memorial Day when we recognize those brave men and women who have died for our freedom. Commander Delany said, "To combat homelessness with our Veterans, hire a Veteran. This will give them hope, opportunity and reduce the homelessness among them."

Deborah Zayas, during her speech spoke about hearts that beat in tune with those serving to keep us in peace. Gene Stewart said, "Inspire our youth in peace; seek not how much they can secure from our nation but what they can give." Let's reach new heights, stated Mike Maxwell, while Roy Williams spoke of the quest for honorable world peace.

After the ceremony, Commander Delany invited all in attendance to join them for lunch, prepared by the American Legion Post 86 Auxiliary.

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Reorganization At Oakland Borough

By Lillian Senko

Oakland Borough Council accepted the resignation of Council President Brian Rhone on October 11th during the regularly scheduled Council meeting and Vice President Eric Page stepped in to chair the meeting. During Council's meeting held on November 8th, Council members agreed to reorganize, instead of holding off until the first of the year. After several yays and nays, the following Council members moved into their official roles: Eric Page, Council President; Gary Boughton, Vice President; Christina Deakin as Vice President Pro-Temp. Council President Page swore in Valarie Senese, who was nominated to fill the vacant seat on Council at the October 11th meeting.

Paul Dudley, Oakland's Emergency Management Coordinator attended the meeting to provide Council with information on the Susquehanna County Emergency Management Plan. Mr. Dudley stated he received the packet from the County's EMA Office and Council has an option to either adopt the County's EMA plan by resolution, or create one of their own.

In order to claim damages and obtain reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) all Council members must attend National Incident Management System (NIMS) training. Elected and appointed officials are responsible for ensuring the public safety and welfare of the people of that jurisdiction and the training provides them with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency event.

Mr. Dudley informed Council he would be attending a training session on December 11th in Montrose, at the Susquehanna County Emergency Management Agency. He stated Council is invited to attend but this does not constitute the NIMS training. Mr. Dudley stated there are different types of NIMS training and 100.C is probably the course Council would need to attend. He promised to get back to them with more information.

Code Enforcement Officer Shane Lewis was present to provide Council with a report of his activities for the month of October. Inspections, litigations, warnings were included in his report and Council asked about a particular property and whether or not they should place a lien on it to cover the cost the Borough incurred. Mr. Lewis stated in his opinion it would cost the Borough money they may not recoup if the owners stopped paying the taxes and it was sold in a Judicial Tax Sale. Council stated they would wait and see what the owners intended to do with the property before making a decision.

Councilwoman Deakin inquired about existing ordinances that address sidewalk maintenance, burning, and grass for examples. Mr. Lewis replied the Borough officials had chosen to follow the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), in conjunction with older ordinances adopted by the Borough. Councilwoman Deakin suggested Council or a committee review the current code ordinances to update them, and Councilwoman Senese asked Mr. Lewis if he would be willing to help in this process. After a lengthy discussion it was decided Council would work together as a group to review the current Ordinances and Mr. Lewis would meet with them on a monthly schedule starting in December.

Councilwoman Deakin shared with Council the official Oakland Borough park survey that was just completed. She informed Council that Councilwoman Senese just completed a Grant Writing Seminar and will be looking to obtain monies to make the much-needed improvements at the park.

Some of the improvements they are looking to accomplish are to enlarge the parking area, new seating, concession stand, restrooms, bleachers and installation of a fence. Councilwoman Deakin stated the improvements would enable them to make the park a safer place for the children, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.

Council thanked Doug Arthur for organizing the Halloween Parade for the children and Mr. Arthur replied it was a success with approximately fifty children.

Officer Creamer presented Council with the October Police Report, which consisted of various incidents the officers responded to. There were twenty-two incidents logged which consisted of burglary, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, domestic dispute, harassment and suspicious vehicle.

Councilwoman Senese questioned when the budget was going to be ready for review, to which Secretary Florence Brush replied it was almost completed. Council would be able to review and motion to advertise at the December 13th meeting. Councilman Beavan stated they have time to adopt the budget before the required end of the year.

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Great Bend Twp. Hosts Short Meet

By Kelly Burke

As the voters of Great Bend were casting their ballots on November 6th, Great Bend Township held their regular monthly Board meeting. But, not in the township hall. The Board members decided to convene the meeting in the garage. Amongst the dirt, grime and township trucks the Great Bend Township Board called the meeting to order at 7pm.

Present at the meeting were the three Board members, Sheila Guinan who holds the title of Secretary, Supervisor and Treasurer, David Hinkley, a Supervisor and Chairman Brian O'Connor.

Great Bend is building a new "materials building." According to Guinan, the foundation has been poured on the "materials" building. The estimated cost of the building, the contractor building the structure and the intended use for the building were not on the agenda.

As of November 6th the Board had not made the 2019 township budget available to the public for review. Presently, the township has over 760,000 dollars in their general fund. The three member Board decided not to discuss the 2019 budget at the November 6th public meeting. Instead, they made plans to hold a private work session and go over the budget amongst themselves.

The meeting lasted less than fifteen minutes and there was nothing of significant importance on the agenda. The previous Board meeting had no one from the general public in attendance, and on November 6th three people were in the audience.

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Lanesboro Adopts Parking Ordinance

By Lillian Senko

A "No Parking" Ordinance was adopted at the Lanesboro Council meeting held on November 7th. No Parking signs will be placed on Main Street, east and west side from the Community Center to Viaduct Street, and on North Main Street, east and west side from Viaduct to Germantown Road. Cars parked on these streets will be subject to towing without notice, along with fines. First offense violators will incur a twenty-five dollar fine, on the second and each subsequent offense a fifty-dollar fine will be issued.

Two people attended the meeting to inquire about Zoning in the Borough, specifically 155 Main Street.  They stated they would like to open a business at that location offering baked goods to start, then possibly expand to include sandwiches and other products. Before they go too far into the process, they wanted to make sure it would be an acceptable business at that location and Council would not have any objections.

Mayor Maby stated the building is in an area zoned Residential R-3, but permittable to operate as a Commercial C-1 with a variance. Council discussed the business for a few moments and informed the entrepreneurs they would need to work with the Council of Governments (COG) to obtain the proper permits for the building, but they would gladly grant them a variance for the business. They motioned and approved a variance for 155 Main Street to be used as a bakery business.

A resident who owns a home on Depot Street with three apartments came to Council to request reduction of her sewer bill by one unit. She stated they live in one apartment, rent out one and the third one they converted to a storage space for personal use. They will not be renting it out again and would like to have the reduction.

Council informed her they could give her the reduction but if she starts renting it out again she will be charged the extra unit. Mayor Maby said the way the Ordinance is written, they can zero out a unit but it reverts back to a full year of payment regardless of the month the apartment was rented in that specific year. She assured Council there was no intention of renting it out again in the near future. Council approved reduction of one unit starting January, 2019.

Residents looking to place a shed close to their neighbors' property to avoid the flood plain attended the meeting looking to Council for assistance. They informed Council they were going to put the shed on the right side of their house, but the neighbor wouldn't grant them a variance for placement closer than the required fifteen feet.

President Dan Boughton informed the resident the adjacent homeowner needs to approve it; Council cannot override the neighbors' decision. He stated he was sorry, but council wouldn't be able to help him.

Chief Jim Smith provided the Mayor and Council with the October Police Report which consisted of nine traffic citations, fifteen traffic warnings, burglary, abandoned boat, medical calls, sewer shut off notices served, disabled vehicle, and motorist assist in Lanesboro.

In Thompson Borough the officers had two traffic arrests, five traffic warnings, charges filed for the corruption of a minor, and harassment.

Mayor and Council spoke about a water problem on Viaduct Street. The water is running out of a lawn, down the driveway and into the street. This will become a dangerous situation if water continues to flow into the street when temperatures start dropping below freezing. President Boughton stated there was a ditch at the back of the property that was probably blocked and it could be an easy fix. Council members will check the condition of the ditch to see if that is where the problem lies.

Mayor Maby said it was too late in the year to obtain the bids needed to install the new recreation building. He said the company they purchased it from would be able to hold shipment until spring.

Council and Mayor Maby reviewed the information contained in the proposed budget, which estimates income of two hundred ninety-two thousand, eighty-four dollars and estimated expenses of two hundred eighty-seven thousand, four hundred twenty-seven dollars. They motioned to advertise the proposed budget for adoption at the next meeting, to be held on December 4th at 7:00pm.

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